Athletic Bilbao
Bilbao return to the Champions League for the first time in 16 years.Reuters

Basque giants Athletic Bilbao return to the Champions League proper for the first time since 1998 by welcoming Ukrainian champions and tournament regulars Shakhtar Donetsk to the San Mames on Wednesday.

Bilbao saw off Italian heavyweights Napoli 3-1 in the playoffs last month to book their place in the group stages. However, the Spaniards are not in the best of forms at the moment, languishing in 12th place, having won just one of their three matches in La Liga this season.

The Lions warmed up for this match by losing 2-0 to Barcelona at Camp Nou during the weekend but will be keen to turn around their fortunes against Shakhtar tonight. Manager Ernesto Valverde claims his men have done their homework and are confident of their chances going into this tie, in a group which also involves Porto and BATE Borisov.

"Shakhtar are a dangerous team going forward. They usually take the initiative and they have very fast players in attack, like Douglas [Costa] and [Alex] Teixeira. We have to be very careful because they are good and dangerous when they get space, and they are used to winning. They are good on the counterattack but they also know how to defend," Valverde emphasised.

"We have to be patient to break down their defensive system. They are in good form, a long way clear at the top of the Ukrainian league, and with a relatively settled side. All their players who played here last year against Real [Sociedad] are still here. We have watched that game a lot.

Shakhtar, on the other hand, are experiencing contrasting fortunes in their domestic campaign. The defending champions have won all six league matches so far, and are leading nearest rivals Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk by two points.

Mircea Lucescu's side beat sixth-placed Chornomorets Odessa 2-0 away from home at the weekend to maintain their 100% start to the season. The Ukrainians say they have also done their research thoroughly and are aware of Bilbao's strengths and weaknesses.

"There is a great atmosphere [at San Mam├ęs], and we hope our performance will allow us to move forward in the Champions League. We'll try to play to win and we feel the responsibility to represent our fans. But what concerns us now is the Champions League and to win at Athletic, a very strong team," Lucescu said.

"We have analysed Athletic - their play-off tie against Napoli and other videos. Athletic have players with some specific qualities, such as Benat and [Ander] Iturraspe, and they know how to use them. But we believe we can draw on our experience in Champions League matches."

Team News

Neither side has any major injury problems, with Bilbao forward Kike Sola sidelined with a torn muscle and Shakhtar's utility man Olexandr Kucher also missing out.

Possible Lineups

Bilbao: Iraizoz; Marcos, San Jose, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Rico; Gomez, Muniain, Susaeta; Aduriz

Shakhtar: Kanibolotskiy; Srna, Krivtsov, Rakitskiy, Azevedo; Stepanenko, Fernando; Costa, Teixeira, Taison; Adriano

Where to Watch Live

The match is set for an 12.15 am IST (8.45 pm local time, 2.45pm ET) start, and can also be watched via live streaming online in India HERE. Catch the action in the UK on Sky Sports Red Button, with the option to live stream the match online HERE.

Viewers in the US can watch the game on ESPN3 Online-App, Watch ESPN and ESPN Deportes+, with an option to live stream HERE. Audience in the Middle East and North Africa can catch the action via live streaming HERE.

Catch the match on C+ Liga de Campeones 2/HD and Canal+ Yomvi in Spain, and on Kanal 5 Ukrania and Futbol 2 if you are in Ukraine.